Telling people you’re a “food stylist” results in everything from confused looks to blank stares to hearing, “That sounds really fun. What do you do exactly?”
Food stylists do a lot and I like to think of my job and others who do this for a living as “food artists”. Just as any artist creates a work of beauty, food stylists do the same thing, only with food instead of clay, marble or a canvas. They turn food into art so people want to buy it. Food stylists who do work for advertising like myself are artists who inspire sales!
Food bloggers and some photographers are food stylists too. Chefs would definitely fall into this category too. But all these professions have a little bit different goal when it comes to food styling. But all know that gorgeous food makes lots of happy customers and fans.
So what exactly does a professional food stylist do?
A food stylist has many responsibilities when it comes to doing his or her job well. Grocery shopping, equipment wrangling, food preparation, recipe writing, assistant direction, and consulting are all part of the work done on a daily basis. But creating beautiful food is the primary role of a food stylist. Pictures in magazines, photos on food packages, menus, billboards, and television commercials all are very important because customers make buying decisions based on how appealing the food looks in photos. A good photographer is needed to turn out good photos but the food stylist is what will make the food look beautiful enough to photograph. Think of a food stylist as the hair and makeup person for the food. Kind of a funny visual but this is really what happens.
The other thing a food stylist does is work with the entire creative team of food photographer, art director, food company representative and creative director. The goal of food photos are to get customers to take the next step. Sometimes this is to purchase the actual food, like in a restaurant, and sometimes it’s to attract more readers and fans like in editorial work for magazines, cookbooks and blogs. Food stylists create works of art and beauty so that customers and fans want to buy or read or come back for more. Ask anyone who works in the food advertising or publishing industry and they will tell you how important a good food stylist is. An expert with a passion for food styling will “handle” food just like an image consultant would handle a person.
So there you have it. Now you know what a food stylist does!